Skip to main content

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
(2020)

(SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

I feel a bit of a killjoy when it comes to these Shaun movies, as I see them as coasting rather and failing to offer a patch on the carefully honed plots and inspiration found in Wallace and Gromit. And indeed, Aardman generally, at their finest. And Shaun… I mean, he’s not all that, is he? Now, a franchise featuring Feathers McGraw… Particularly annoying is the manner in which, to get over essentially under-expressive sheep faces, Aardman’s animators have the sheep mouths pop out from the side of their faces like some unpleasant Cronenbergian body-horror interface. But then, Aardman have never been the greatest whizzes with character design, as non-descript alien Lu-La evidences. This also applies to the Wallace and Gromit stand-ins of dog Blitzer and Farmer John (I do like the enduring density of the Farmer, however, probably the best character here).

Where the premise of the first movie was innocuously redundant – Shaun’s day out – Farmageddon’s derivative nature is actively irksome. Cute little bu-ba, I mean Lu-La alien lands on Earth having foolishly taken her parents’ saucer for a spin. Shaun makes bezzie mates with her. Meanwhile, Mossingham is rife with UFO fever and the Ministry of Alien Detection, led by Agent Red (who is mean but just wants to be believed, having seen aliens as a child, aw), is called in.

There’s more than enough room for sight gags and riffs from a host of TV and movies we’ve seen riffed on many times before – Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The X-Files, Men in Black, E.T., Star Trek, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Back to the Future, Aliens, a rover that resembles Johnny 5 – and this element, despite being dusty in subject matter, is entertaining enough in that likeable Aardman way.

Being a curmudgeon, though, I found zero to get behind with Shaun or his alien chum. Particularly off putting is the tendency to stray into music montage sequences. One of which, perhaps surprisingly and doubtless fuelling a future generation of class A-inhibited Glastonbury attendees, is the Farmageddon Mix of The Chemical Brothers’ Out of Control (to the visual accompaniment, appropriately, of the spaceship run amok). In response to which, MAD’s UFOs Caught Counter, which had just risen from 0000 to 0001, accompanied by hearty cheers, returns to 0000 again.

There’s a run of decent gags, naturally. The alien’s sugar rush in a supermarket is mildly amusing, as is Jaws in a frozen food unit (and the hatred of broccoli). A belch heard on the savannah (there are inevitably some other vulgar gags, including scrubbing the dog’s bollocks, Johnny 5 shitting paper and the alien needing the toilet). There’s a literal Bull in a china shop. A gag about which way up the world should be viewed in order to recognise it from space. Scratching the paintwork on the ISS. A crop circle caused by a runaway combine harvester. References to Roswell and Rendlesham Forest (well, Mossingham Forest). The sheep disguise themselves as Daleks (well, deadly dustbins). And the Fourth Doctor (or someone dressed as him; difficult to discern with Aardman designs) emerges from a portaloo, takes fright and retreats within again. On the debit side, it also gives Brian Cox, about the most sci-fi thing in the movie, publicity in an end-credits gag.

The most sustained antics comes from Farmer John’s alien-theme park, or barn, Farmageddon. He has his sights set on the purchase of the Wheatchopper 5000, so no expense will be spent coming up with a third-rate entertainment. Farmageddon thus includes a chicken with deely boppers and Martian pigs, while Farmer John re-enacts the initial close encounter as a stage show (shades of Thor: Ragnarok?).

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon continues the slump in Aardman’s movie output that began after the (very good) Pirates! movie nearly a decade ago. I can see why they’re returning to the Shaun well – particularly after Early Man bombed – but it really is their equivalent of lowest-common denominator fare. I’d like to see them get creative again, but unfortunately Chicken Run 2 is next up.


Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

We could be mauled to death by an interstellar monster!

Star Trek Beyond (2016) (SPOILERS) The odd/even Star Trek failure/success rule seemed to have been cancelled out with the first reboot movie, and then trodden into ground with Into Darkness (which, yes, I quite enjoyed, for all its scandalous deficiencies). Star Trek Beyond gets us back onto more familiar ground, as it’s very identifiably a “lesser” Trek , irrespective of the big bucks and directorial nous thrown at it. This is a Star Trek movie that can happily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Search for Spock and Insurrection , content in the knowledge they make it look good.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?